The Most Effective Insect & Tick Repellents

The Most Effective Insect & Tick Repellents


There could be dozens of insect and tick repellents filling the shelves at the local shop and even more options when doing a simple online search for the best repellent to buy, but which is really the best? There are several well-known natural and DEET brands, but are they really the best option for tick protection? Read on for Ranger Ready’s review of DEET bug sprays and the DEET alternatives.

DEET Bug Spray


As a plasticizer, DEET corrodes and damages sports gear, sunglasses, and other plastic materials, and the higher the concentration of DEET, the more corrosive to gear.

In terms of efficacy, The lesser the concentration, the shorter the protection window is. 

DEET is also a neurotoxin and gets absorbed into the bloodstream, while leaving a sticky feeling on skin after application. Additionally, DEET has a high absorption rate of 18%, leaving the skin much quicker than other insect and tick repellents.

DEET Alternative: Natural Bug Spray

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (also known as p-menthane-3,8-diol, or PMD) is one of the most common natural bug spray options available. However, oil of lemon eucalyptus offers no proven protection against ticks; it only protects against mosquitos and mosquito borne illnesses like Zika, West Nile, Dengue Fever, and Chikungunya for 6 hours before it needs to be reapplied.

This natural bug spray option for children under the age of three, so it is not a viable repellent for the entire family.



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As its name suggests, oil of lemon eucalyptus often leaves skin feeling oily after application. It’s commonly confused with lemon eucalyptus extract, which is not effective at preventing insect bites, and should be avoided as an option.

DEET Alternative: Picaridin Bug Spray

Picaridin insect repellent protects against mosquitos, ticks, flies, and other biting insects, as well as the possible vector-borne diseases the insects may carry, including: Lyme disease, Zika virus, Pappataci Fever, and Chikungunya virus.

 With an effective concentration of 20%, picaridin protects against mosquito and tick bites for 12 hours, while protecting against biting flies, gnats, no-see-ums, and chiggers for 8 hours. The absorption rate of picaridin is just 6% and it is not a neurotoxin like DEET.


Picaridin goes on skin clean and doesn’t leave a greasy or oily residue. It is also safe for children over the age of 1 and safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, making it an insect and tick repellent that the entire family can use for long days outdoors.

When shopping for insect repellent this summer, don’t forget to look at concentration as well as which insects the repellent protects against. If ticks and biting flies are a concern, oil of lemon eucalyptus will not offer the best protection. Other DEET alternatives don’t last as long or don’t protect against all insects and vector-borne diseases. Currently, picaridin 20% is the only DEET alternative that’s proven to be just as effective, if not more effective.

Shop wisely and stay protected out there!